Wood Stove & Insert Shopping 

  • By Alaska Stove Alaska Stove
  • 19 Oct, 2017

What You Need To Know!

Freezing temperatures are here to stay...  While that means slippery roads, dark days, and winter gear, that doesn't have to mean cold...at least inside your home.  That also doesn't have to mean higher heating costs either.  There is nothing quite as nice as sitting next to a hot fire on a cold winter night, but where to start?  First determine do you want a wood fireplace insert or a freestanding wood stove. 

Fireplace inserts are designed to go into your existing inefficient wood burning wood fireplace and turn it into a high efficient wood stove.  Even the smallest wood stove insert is capable of heating up to 1,300 sq ft in our Alaskan climate! Many people don't realize that a standard wood fireplace is actually negative 9-14% efficiency. In the case of emergency you would actually be better off plugging your fireplace up, than running it! However, with the addition of a fireplace insert and you could provide tremendous additional heat to the home. This would stop the current heat loss, establish a new heat source to lessen those gas bills, and even provide heat in an emergency. 

Freestanding stoves are another great option.  These will have much greater exposure in the home and are capable of heating larger areas.  In addition, the size of the stove is not limited like it is with a fireplace insert.  There are stoves available for nearly every size home, but how do you choose?

Steel or Cast Iron?

Steel stoves will heat up a bit faster for that quick heat in a cabin or emergency situation, but cast iron stoves will hold the heat a little while longer. If you are getting a steel stove you want to look for something that is at least 5/16" thick. This is the thickest steel used for woodstoves today. Having thicker steel will mean a much longer lifespan for your stove and although it is made of steel, the mass will be greater than the typical steel stove which means it will stay hot a little longer over other steel stoves. 

Cast iron stoves will hold the heat for longer than the typical steel stoves and tend to be more ornate.  With cast iron, manufactures are able to provide more classic looks, and even porcelain finishes! While cast iron stoves are slightly more money, the look and length of time they are able to hold heat is just something that cannot be duplicated by steel. 

Catalytic or Noncatalytic?     

This is by far the biggest question people have.  Many people are lead to believe that with the EPA requirements Catalytic stoves are the only option.  Some of the best known Catalytic stoves have emissions of up to 2.4 grams per hour!  Catalytic stoves work by using a chemically treated filter to clean up the exhaust prior to leaving the stove.  While it sounds simple enough, there are underlying issues. In order to use the stove you must first bypass this filter in order to heat everything up. Once the catalyst has reached the proper temperature, you flip a lever closing off the box and force smoke to go through this filter. This design also does not lead to a very active fire to look at because it is being robbed of any significant air flow. In addition, the time in which it takes to heat up the catalyst the stove is allowing a very large amount of smoke and creosote to travel up the chimney which means frequent cleanings and degradation of the stove pipe.  When you burn a catalytic stove you cannot burn anything with print, or wood with any real moisture to it. Catalytic stoves are designed to burn dry seasoned wood and nothing else. Failure to do so will destroy the catalyst which will lead to buying a costly replacement of up to over $400! Even under ideal conditions, catalysts have an expected life of 6,000-12,000 hrs.  In Alaska that means 2-3 years operation do to the duration of our winters. This leaves catalytic stoves as probably not the best option for our area.

Non-Catalytic stoves have made huge advancements and are a great option for those people that want a clean burning stove without the fuss, or maintenance costs.  A Non-Catalytic stove burns clean by re-routing the wood smoke and gasses back through the stove to refire the impurities. We carry Non-Catalytic stoves that actually have emissions as low as 1 gram per hour! These not only burn cleaner than most catalytic stoves, but do not have a $400+ filter you have to replace every few years.  The way the stove burns now is the way the stove is going to burn 10 years from now. There are also a number of different varieties available from stoves with vibrant flames, record breaking efficiency, or even full thermostatically controlled options from Quadra-Fire, to the manually controlled, long burning consistent heat of a Harman.

When looking for a wood burning stove look for things that you can judge in black and white.  Don't be sold by a name or jargon! Cast Iron or Steel, Catalytic or Non-Catalytic, then look at the size of the firebox, construction of the stove (especially the thickness of the steel!), and emissions. These are all very easy things to compare so you can make sure you're getting the best stove possible, and not just being sold.

Until next time..

Jeremy Rice           
By Alaska Stove Alaska Stove 19 Oct, 2017
Freezing temperatures are here to stay...  While that means slippery roads, dark days, and winter gear, that doesn't have to mean cold...at least inside your home.  That also doesn't have to mean higher heating costs either.  There is nothing quite as nice as sitting next to a hot fire on a cold winter night, but where to start?  First determine do you want a wood fireplace insert or a freestanding wood stove. 

Fireplace inserts are designed to go into your existing inefficient wood burning wood fireplace and turn it into a high efficient wood stove.  Even the smallest wood stove insert is capable of heating up to 1,300 sq ft in our Alaskan climate! Many people don't realize that a standard wood fireplace is actually negative 9-14% efficiency. In the case of emergency you would actually be better off plugging your fireplace up, than running it! However, with the addition of a fireplace insert and you could provide tremendous additional heat to the home. This would stop the current heat loss, establish a new heat source to lessen those gas bills, and even provide heat in an emergency. 

Freestanding stoves are another great option.  These will have much greater exposure in the home and are capable of heating larger areas.  In addition, the size of the stove is not limited like it is with a fireplace insert.  There are stoves available for nearly every size home, but how do you choose?

Steel or Cast Iron?

Steel stoves will heat up a bit faster for that quick heat in a cabin or emergency situation, but cast iron stoves will hold the heat a little while longer. If you are getting a steel stove you want to look for something that is at least 5/16" thick. This is the thickest steel used for woodstoves today. Having thicker steel will mean a much longer lifespan for your stove and although it is made of steel, the mass will be greater than the typical steel stove which means it will stay hot a little longer over other steel stoves. 

Cast iron stoves will hold the heat for longer than the typical steel stoves and tend to be more ornate.  With cast iron, manufactures are able to provide more classic looks, and even porcelain finishes! While cast iron stoves are slightly more money, the look and length of time they are able to hold heat is just something that cannot be duplicated by steel. 

Catalytic or Noncatalytic?     

This is by far the biggest question people have.  Many people are lead to believe that with the EPA requirements Catalytic stoves are the only option.  Some of the best known Catalytic stoves have emissions of up to 2.4 grams per hour!  Catalytic stoves work by using a chemically treated filter to clean up the exhaust prior to leaving the stove.  While it sounds simple enough, there are underlying issues. In order to use the stove you must first bypass this filter in order to heat everything up. Once the catalyst has reached the proper temperature, you flip a lever closing off the box and force smoke to go through this filter. This design also does not lead to a very active fire to look at because it is being robbed of any significant air flow. In addition, the time in which it takes to heat up the catalyst the stove is allowing a very large amount of smoke and creosote to travel up the chimney which means frequent cleanings and degradation of the stove pipe.  When you burn a catalytic stove you cannot burn anything with print, or wood with any real moisture to it. Catalytic stoves are designed to burn dry seasoned wood and nothing else. Failure to do so will destroy the catalyst which will lead to buying a costly replacement of up to over $400! Even under ideal conditions, catalysts have an expected life of 6,000-12,000 hrs.  In Alaska that means 2-3 years operation do to the duration of our winters. This leaves catalytic stoves as probably not the best option for our area.

Non-Catalytic stoves have made huge advancements and are a great option for those people that want a clean burning stove without the fuss, or maintenance costs.  A Non-Catalytic stove burns clean by re-routing the wood smoke and gasses back through the stove to refire the impurities. We carry Non-Catalytic stoves that actually have emissions as low as 1 gram per hour! These not only burn cleaner than most catalytic stoves, but do not have a $400+ filter you have to replace every few years.  The way the stove burns now is the way the stove is going to burn 10 years from now. There are also a number of different varieties available from stoves with vibrant flames, record breaking efficiency, or even full thermostatically controlled options from Quadra-Fire, to the manually controlled, long burning consistent heat of a Harman.

When looking for a wood burning stove look for things that you can judge in black and white.  Don't be sold by a name or jargon! Cast Iron or Steel, Catalytic or Non-Catalytic, then look at the size of the firebox, construction of the stove (especially the thickness of the steel!), and emissions. These are all very easy things to compare so you can make sure you're getting the best stove possible, and not just being sold.

Until next time..

Jeremy Rice           
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